Out with the old and in with the new.
Swansea City, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion couldn’t keep their heads above water over the 38-game grind of the English Premier League in 2017-18, and they will now strive to make a return from the second-tier Championship. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as each of the three sides earned in excess of £90 million just for playing their part.
Wolverhampton Wanders, Cardiff City and Fulham are the three sides to have made their way up from the Championship and will now have their work cut out for them in the Premier League. The reward for their promotions is a windfall more than double the amount the relegated sides received, and all three sides have put that money to use to strengthen their squads for the steeper challenge to come.
Here’s a look at the three promoted sides looking to make a splash during the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Champions of the Championship, Wolves won 30 of their 46 games last season, and narrowly missed out on cracking the 100-point barrier. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo, formerly of Porto and Valencia, has modernized the team’s style of play by setting up in a 3-4-3 formation with Conor Coady taking a pivotal role as ball distributor from the centre of defence. Santo pushed Coady, a central midfielder, into the role, and his ability to keep Wolves composed in possession will be tested.
To ease the pressure off him, newcomer Joao Moutinho should provide some much-needed veteran experience in the middle of the park and not only give Coady a trustworthy option on the ball who can unlock defences, but also allow more freedom for Ruben Neves to tap into his creative instincts. Neves was outstanding a season ago, spraying the ball to the wings with ease, but time on the ball will come at a premium in the Premier League with the step up in class.
One man who was truly recognized this summer for his performances in the Championship is Diogo Jota. On loan from Atletico Madrid, the 21-year-old scored 17 goals in 44 appearances and has now made the move to Wolves a permanent one. Primarily a left-winger, Jota showed he was comfortable with the ball on either foot and had a strong work rate defensively as well.
As a team, the Wolves’ fighting spirit will be tested more than anything. Despite coming over to the Premier League as the best side from the Championship, they only had one win to show for in the 12 games in which they fell behind. One would expect that’s likely to happen more often in the top flight, despite the signing of Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
One must feel that Cardiff City are up against it. They are your traditional newly promoted side, happy to get men behind the ball, accustomed to playing without the ball, and going for long-ball options when they have it. Only two teams had less possession than Cardiff’s 42.54 per cent average, and their lack of desire to play a short-passing game is evidenced by their 59.38 per cent passing accuracy percentage, the worst of all the Championship teams.
What does work for the Bluebirds is that they are well aware of who they are as a team and are comfortable in their skin. Manager Neil Warnock is never one to mince words and will make them well aware of the Herculean task ahead of them as favourites to be relegated. He will be keen to turn around his fortunes in the top flight as well, having proven time and time again that he knows how to get teams to the big stage, but not keep them there. Warnock has experienced relegation with Sheffield United in 2006-07, was sacked by Queens Park Rangers with the club heading in that direction in 2011-12 and by Crystal Palace in the 2014-15 season under similar circumstances.
Junior Hoilett provides some Canadian content to look forward to, with the 28-year-old finding form under Warnock with nine goals and 11 assists in the Championship. On the rare occasion that Cardiff don’t employ the long-ball, Hoilett will be pivotal in penetrating Premier League defences along the ground.
New signing Bobby Reid will either establish himself as a transformed player or one-season wonder by season’s end. After scoring five goals and providing four assists over both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons as a midfielder, he was moved up front to lead Bristol City’s attack and contributed 19 goals and seven assists in the Championship.
If Cardiff will be looking to hang on for dear life, it appears that Fulham will be on the opposite end of the spectrum with manager Slavisa Jokanovic’s preference for an attractive free-flowing style as well as some new recruits that have significantly bolstered the talent level of the squad.
Andre Schurrle is the biggest name to arrive after his exploits with Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea, Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund and providing the assist that won Germany the World Cup in 2014, but it is the addition of Jean Seri who could prove most impactful. There will undoubtedly be an adjustment period transitioning from Ligue 1 to the Premier League, but the Ivorian is the type of box-to-box midfielder with skill on the ball that could thrive under Jokanovic.
Alfie Mawson should be a fairly familiar name as he was at the heart of relegated Swansea City’s defence and was swooped up during the transfer window. Unfortunately, after having any hope of making England’s World Cup squad crushed by the need for knee surgery, he is expected to miss the entire month of August due to recovery.
That means another Ligue 1 coup in Maxime le Marchand will have to impress early, while star man Ryan Sessegnon could be asked to hold back on his raids down the left flank in order to offer more solidity in the back. The 18-year-old won Championship Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season and will undoubtedly look to make the England left-wing position his for years to come.
Another familiar name is Aleksandar Mitrovic, the former Newcastle United striker who will be eager to exorcise some Premier League demons of his own. Initially acquired on loan by the Cottagers on loan in February of last season, Mitrovic won Championship Player of the Month for both March and April with goals by the boatload. A mercurial personality with a penchant for being carded, he will need to bring a better focus to help his new club avoid the dreaded drop.